That Christmas Feeling

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Hello. As November slips by and the Christmas production machine slinks out of control, I find myself rejecting the commercial shebang of the season more and more in favour of a simpler, greener and homespun version. I want to enjoy plenty of time at home with my family and friends and the least amount of time possible in the shops. 

Last year I wrote about my views on the over commercialism of the season. See here for tips on minimalist festive shopping and here for my ideas on simplifying Christmas. This year I hope my gift buying will be even more modest and mindful. I shall plan, research, shop online and avoid the shops as much as possible, especially at the busiest times. 

I've already heard many declarations that it doesn't feel like Christmas this year and I wonder if that's because so many people have such high expectations of Christmas. The festivites seem to start earlier each year. If you spend weeks rushing around shopping, over committing yourself to social occasions and generally feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to make Christmas perfect then it's no wonder that you'll have no enthusiasm left for the main event. Most of us will have to do more shopping at this time of the year but I believe it can be kept under control and shopping should not be the main focus of the preparations. 

Nostalgia and tradition is a big part of Christmas for me as is the simplicity of the Christian message. It doesn't seem right to me that we should spend excessively at a time when we are celebrating the birth of someone who lived humbly and reached out to the poor. Shouldn't we be doing the same? And no matter what our religious beliefs shouldn't we be reflecting on how much most of us have in the western world and making an effort to help those who have less? How many people in our own towns don't have enough of the basics of life - food, warmth, shelter and love? As I write this I feel I need to do more to support these people this Christmas. 

However, my Christmas won't be too austere and I'll be indulging in little rituals along the way that help create that Christmas feeling. Here's a list of some of the things I'm hoping to enjoy over the next few weeks. Most of them cost next to nothing.

clementine eating
garland making
baking mince pies the way my Nana used to using my Mum's old tins
sherry drinking (only in December)
listening to carols (I love Classic FM for this in December)
wreath making
dipping pine cones in white paint and glitter
quiet reflection at church
late afternoon walks to enjoy the solitude and the twinkly lights
making something new for the Christmas tree
movie watching
ice skating (even though I'm rubbish at it)

How about you? Do you have plans for a more modest Christmas this year? What simple things give you that Christmas feeling? I'd love to hear.



At the Weekend


awoke on Saturday to a frosty morning - wish I'd photographed this but I was too lazy lingering in my pjs
cleaned the house quickly
shared the ironing but didn't find the end of the basket
abandoned a Saturday night out due to hub's bad back
ate almond croissants for Sunday breakfast
watched the Great Gatsby on DVD - wow, I loved the glamour
debated who was the best Doctor
escaped to the woods for a kick through the leaves
supported hubs singing in the community choir at our local Christmas lights switch on
retreated to a wonderful pub for a glass of Merlot and a warm by the fire with friends

A quiet but restorative weekend. Today was a real challenge for photography.  Even though we went out early this afternoon (2pm) the light was scarce and everything seemed dull. And my final picture of Dr.Johnson amongst the Christmas lights is blurred but I still like it. Hubs' back seems to be improving - this cold weather doesn't help.

Hope you all had a good weekend folks xo



Skincare on a Budget

I thought I would share with you my skincare basics.

Nowadays I like to keep my beauty products to a minimum. Overflowing window ledges and cupboards full of products scare me. Yes, clutter does frighten me sometimes. I like my bathroom to be a tranquil place, as second to the bedroom, its the first and last room I encounter each day. 

Don't get me wrong, I like make-up and beauty products and the possibilities for self- improvement they offer but I'm too much of a cynic to believe that any one single product will transform my appearance, my life and my happiness. I'm done with overflowing toiletry bags and bathroom cabinets. And I never had or will have the budget of a beauty editor so I've had to get to grips with budget beauty buys.

So here's my essential skincare kit. Simple products that can clean, moisturise and protect your skin.  

1. Face wipes. I don't like soap or cleansers as I find them too much of a faff and too drying. Facial wipes seem to clear the day's grime yet leave my face feeling refreshed. I love buying more expensive wipes when they're on offer but it's reassuring to know that I can get 25 wipes for 45p at Tesco and they'll do the job.
2. Baby oil. I don't remember when I discovered this but baby oil is the simplest, cheapest and most effective product for removing the toughest eye make-up. Just dab a little onto a cotton wool pad, gently wipe over your eyes and the most stubborn mascara will be removed in seconds, I've tried commercial eye make-up remover pads and honestly prefer my simple baby oil. It's also wonderful as a body moisturiser – just a few drops in the bath will leave your skin silky smooth. I use Aldi's brand - 99p for 300ml.
3. Baking soda. This is my latest discovery. Too skint to buy an exfoliator I began to research cheap and natural alternatives. I found that baking soda with its tiny grains acts as a gentle exfoliant as well as a cleanser. Just use 2tsp of baking soda to 1tsp water to make a paste and gentle rub into your skin before rinsing. It does leave your skin a little dry so I wouldn't recommend using it everyday. However, it does leave your skin feeling wonderfully smooth. I use Aldi's bicarbonate of soda at 69p. 
4. Face moisturiser. Finding a cheap product which feels light yet provides a SPF of 15 was a godsend. This product, AldIi's Lacura Q10 SPF 15 (£1.49 for 75ml), is such good value for money and feels luxurious.

So a little beauty inspiration for you this weekend. I do believe that although beauty is partly genetic, a healthy and positive attitude to life is the cheapest and most effective beauty aid. 

How about you? Do you use any of these products or have any of your own to share? It'd be great to hear from you.



Minimalist Monday: How to Fill the Gaps in Your Wardrobe

So you've got the perfect jeans, a classic trench and the ultimate court shoe but what about the basics? Do you have enough plain black socks, proper fitting underwear and basic good quality jersey tops in a variety of neutral colours and sleeve lengths?

No... me neither.

I'm proud of my wardrobe and the way I've managed to streamline it in recent years. I have some lovely individual pieces and a core of tunics, trousers and skirts to build a capsule wardrobe on. Every item in my wardrobe fits, is loved and gets worn enough times to validate its existence. 

But what about the basics? The vest tops, the t shirts and the long sleeved jersey tops that go with everything? 

Hmm...  these are sadly lacking in my wardrobe.

In my past spendthrift days I've been too much of a magpie, coveting and collecting the glory pieces: the sensationally shaped tulip skirt, the studded jeans and missoni like tunic. Shopping for basics has always seemed too boring.

I admit I've ignored this important part of my wardrobe and my clothes are beginning to whimper, nay shout, that they need some consolidation. In other words I need some basic pieces: socks, underwear and jersey tops (vests, t shirts, three quarter length and long sleeved) in a range of neutral colours. Like most people I can't afford to build a new wardrobe from scratch and therefore have to work around existing favourites. The bottoms that I own are not all the same colour and some are patterned so I could really do with a range of plain tops to pull them all together. The few plain black tops that I do own are beginning to look worn and will need replacing soon. Replacing basics is I realise a fundamental part of maintaining a reduced wardrobe.

My dilemma is that I also need a party/smart outfit for at least one Christmas/New Year event. Or is this a want? Surely I can wear what I wore last year or be thrifty and bag a bargain bonanza somewhere/somehow? I love the challenge of a bargain outfit or reinventing last year's Christmas outfit. I had this same dilemma last year and solved it by updating my wardrobe with a piece that wasn't solely party wear and could be worn more than once. 

Right now I am committed to building the basics in my wardrobe and compiling a list of the good quality essential pieces that I need. I won't shop for them all at once but will forgo other wardrobe purchases until these are met. Meanwhile my wants (a.k.a. the party outfit) will have to be governed by serendipity, creativity and the bargain bin.

My wardrobe gaps

plain v neck jersey tops in black, white and grey
t shirts in black, white and grey
cotton camisoles in black, white and grey
black socks
underwear in black and white 
new black flats (patent?)
black/grey ankle boots
a dress for autumn/winter (smart day wear)

Not very exciting, eh? But these pieces will give my wardrobe and everyday life a lift and a little more harmony.

I like the sound of that, a harmonious wardrobe. Woo hoo! Why didn't I think of that earlier?

Over to you, my friends. 

Have you built your wardrobe on basics or frivolous purchases? Does your wardrobe need consolidation like mine? What are your wardrobe gaps? 




Fruit Platter with Lemon Dip

Sharing platters are in vogue in restaurants and are easier than you may think to replicate at home. The secret is to use a large plate, tray or slate board and to layer the food as casually as you can. 

We bought our large slate serving plate in France two years ago (at well under £10 from Casa) and it has been used over and over again for serving savoury platters. This week I used it for a Mediterranean platter for book club (cold meats, olives, mozzarella, shavings of Parmesan and rocket) and then later in the week for this fruit platter as a dessert. We cooked a Chinese meal when we had family over and wanted something simple and light to follow. 

As one of my autumn/winter health goals is to eat more fresh fruit I wondered if I could make a fruit based dessert that was a bit more up to date and sociable than an ordinary fruit salad. And if you can have savoury dips surely you can have sweet ones too! After a little research I decided to use mascarpone as a base for a lemon dip.

I bought all my fruit from Aldi including the wonderfully exotic but cheap persimmon fruit (also known as sharon fruit) which is one of Aldi's Super 6 offers this week (89p for four fruit). I was extravagant as we were having family over and I used grapes, blueberries, kiwi, strawberries, pineapple and persimmon but you could use less fruit, different types or just whatever fruit is on offer that week. Persimmon is simple to prepare - blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds and then peel and slice them as if they were a tomato. They taste good, similar to apricots and mangoes.

This dip transforms the platter and you really don't need much as it's so luxurious and creamy. Think all the richness of lemon cheesecake without any of the faffing. Most supermarkets sell a light version of mascarpone if you wish to curtail the calories! With just three ingredients it's super quick and easy to make.

You will need

250g Mascarpone
3-4 heaped tablespoons of the best quality lemon curd that you can afford
2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice


In a bowl simply loosen the mascarpone cheese with a fork, gradually beat in the lemon curd and then the lemon juice. The mascarpone will become more liquid and silky as you beat it. Adjust the amounts of lemon curd and lemon juice to suit your taste. Spoon into small dishes and chill until needed.

We added bought ginger cookies to our platter but you could add other biscuits such as shortbread. If you prepare the fruit and dip in advance this fruit platter takes minutes to assemble and means there's no frantic checking of the oven as with other puds. 

Et voilĂ !



Rose hips, Rosemary and Honesty

...aah, Friday at last. 

It's so lovely to be back here again. 

Life has been a little bit busy here with work and entertaining twice in the week - book club on Monday night and family last night (eldest son has come home for a few days of his reading week). Book club was fun to host but it was quite a challenge fitting ten people into our compact lounge. Anyhow it was cosy and the olives, Mediterranean platter and wine seemed to go down well. We have just read Edith Wharton's The Children and have chosen to read Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry for our next meeting. Both great books that I would recommend.

Yesterday I headed off for a solitary walk into the late afternoon autumn sun to catch up with myself and nature. I strolled around the perimeter of our local park to see what the hedges had to offer for Lou's series. Many gardens back onto the park so I found many plants over spilling from back gardens into the park. There was an abundance of rose hips, a very handsome rosemary bush and I was in ecstasy to find a tiny amount of honesty. 

As usual I collected far too much foliage but quickly narrowed down my jumble to the brightest rose hips, a sprig of rosemary and some delightful twigs of honesty. Deciding how to display them took a little longer - but that's half the fun.

Do hop over to Nature in the home  - I'm a little in awe of this week's wreaths and posies that have been showcased. Enchanting.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading, following and commenting this week.



At the Weekend


bought myself some flowers for a treat ... because... well, it's book club at mine tomorrow evening
rearranged a few display items - my dala horse never gets put away
supported hubs as he painted the family bathroom white - goodbye magnolia and yay to pure white walls!
wore my poppy with pride and visited our local Garden of Remembrance
bought Christmas cards
enjoyed a late Sunday afternoon stroll through the park - the rays were low and the temperature cool but it was so mood enhancing

This weekend seemed  a little too busy - a little diy can put things out of balance - pleased as I am with the results I don't know if it was worth it in terms of time lost together as a family/couple.

I won't be around to write Minimalist Monday tomorrow - too busy hosting book club, scoffing olives and indulging in a splash of red wine. But if I was to write a post it would be entitled "I don't buy Christmas". Our Christmas will be magical and nostalgic whether I choose to shop for it in the big stores or not. I've seen all the big Christmas adverts this weekend and wonderful as they are they haven't tempted me to part with my money. 

Have a great week and thank you for reading, following and commenting here this week xo



My Little Acorn

Hello! So happy to be back joining in with Lou's Nature in the home autumn/winter series. I love the challenge of displaying something beautiful, natural, creative and cheap for this series. 

Here's a little memento of our sun-kissed woodland walk from last weekend. The woods were full of fallen acorns but not many were still attached to their cups. I salvaged this dear little acorn and cup along with a twig of oak leaves. My National Trust badge (bought at a car boot sale for 10p) now has a little companion on my letterpress tray.

I think the simple design of the logo and the intricate texture of the acorn cup are just perfect and make great miniature display items.



Minimalist Monday: A Little Less Shopping

I used to love browsing shops. For clothes, for homeware and for gifts. I'd try and squeeze in a little shopping after work and always found time for some retail therapy at the weekend. Now I feel uncomfortable in a shop unless I'm actually there to buy something. I do my research at home and usually make quick decisions about my purchases. If I know I need an item and I have the money to pay for it, I find there's no need to agonise over a decision and no guilt felt afterwards. And I no longer feel guilty if I walk out of a shop empty handed however friendly the staff.

I don't covet designer bags but like the anonymity of my reusable bags. I find less fuss no frills German supermarkets friendlier than the larger supermarkets that have grown so big they're now soulless, but I'm not loyal to any one shop or brand. I prefer to buy second hand or ethically - but quite often I prefer to save my money or spend it on an experience instead. 

My shopping list is my friend not my credit card – I haven't had one of those for years. A shopping list keeps me on track and means fewer visits to supermarkets and more no spend days. I don't leave home without a shopping list even if it's no bigger than a postage stamp and my menu plan informs my grocery list. I prefer a shopping basket to a trolley and like editing my virtual shopping basket when I shop online. 

If I go shopping with a friend I spend more time chatting over coffee than choosing clothes.

I get annoyed when I receive emails about sales and promotions. And when I do buy something new to wear I don't keep it for best (or hide it in the wardrobe) but enjoy each wear as if it was the first. I'm not tempted by multi buy offers unless it's something I use regularly. 

I no longer fear that if I buy one thing then I'll be back a few days later for something to go with it – the gaps in my wardrobe can wait to be filled. 

Advertising drives me mad – I will never buy a sofa for Christmas or a perfume just because it bears the name of a celebrity. 

These habits have evolved over the last few years since my minimalist journey began. 

Every step to a little less shopping helps.

Have your shopping habits changed? I'd love to hear. 



At the Weekend


cleaned the house

washed our youngest's blazer and cleaned his shoes (a rare event)
had a lazy pizza tea
and delicious bacon sarnies 
bought my Dad some tiny 25cl bottles of beer
snuggled on the sofa and read new books
awoke on Sunday to blue skies and calmer weather
savoured shepherd's pie for Sunday lunch
enjoyed late afternoon sunshine on a walk through the woods
wished ramblers, dog walkers and horse riders a good afternoon
almost bought some Christmas cards
warmed ourselves on hot chocolate with cream
drank a little red wine

So glad we finally got to see the sun again today. How was your first weekend of November?



Remember to be Healthy in November

I'm hoping November will be a calmer month after the wet and wild last days of October in the UK. I'm not setting any mini goals this month but I will be trying to focus once more on health and relaxation. If October taught me anything it was the importance of health - both of my loved ones and also of not neglecting my own. 

With the demands of December just around the corner and colder weather more likely, this is the month to remember to take good care of yourself. 

This vintage photo sets the mood for me. 

Here's to a healthy and happy November for us all xo